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24 May 2022

EXPLAINER: Everything you need to know about the new Omicron XE subvariant

EXPLAINER: Everything you need to know about the new Omicron XE subvariant

Coronavirus Covid-19

A new subvariant of Covid-19, dubbed Omicron XE, has been confirmed in at least one case in the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

It follows after a number of cases of the subvariant have been confirmed in the UK, including a small number reported in Northern Ireland.

In an international context, XE has also been detected in Thailand and Hong Kong.

According to RTÉ News, the Department of Health has said that the only known case of the XE variant at present has been reported in ROI to date, in a travel-associated case with a specimen date in February 2022.

The XE variant is the result of two when a person becomes infected with two or more variants at the same time; essentially creating a new compound version of the virus.

Specifically, XE is a recombinant of the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 strains.

It is not currently thought that XE comes with new symptoms.

However, according to sequencing data from the UK, where more than 1,000 cases have been identified, the new variant is about 10 to 20 per cent more transmissible.

Chief Medical Advisor at the UK's Health Security Agency, Professor Susan Hopkins, has said about the new subvariant: "This particular recombinant, XE, has shown a variable growth rate and we cannot yet confirm whether it has a true growth advantage.

"So far there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness," she added.

In related news, while speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Professor of Immunology at Trinity College, Kingston Mills, said that there was a series of new variants emerging in India, with six million cases in April alone.

However, Prof Mills added that he expects that the current vaccines will be able to combat XE.

Meanwhile, The Irish Independent has reported that Nobel Prize-winning scientist Michael Levitt, of Stanford University, has predicted that Ireland's death rate and infection will "burn itself out" in the next two weeks, enabling an earlier exit from lockdown following an analysis of data.

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